How NOT to Garden

hey through garlic plants in BC

Last spring I asked my sweet neighbour how to grow a garden. I wanted cold hard facts. Instead, she said, ‘You just try things. If they work – do it again. If they don’t – then try something else.’

You ever go about having a simple conversation about seeds and soil and then BAM you’re all, ‘quit whispering sweet soothing wisdom into my spongy soul!’.

I have the best neighbours, but I was hoping for some more reference-material type advice. Fine, I totally imagined that she’d hand me a dusty old box of heirloom seeds that gave any rookie a surreal gardening intuition, and I would grow the most beautiful bounty in all the land!

But she said, just try things.

So, since I am pursuing that modern stay-at-home-mom brand of homemaking that they call Radical Homemakers, we decided to add some gardens to the backyard so I could homemake it up.


In Conor’s ‘why-do-less-when-you-can-do-more’ habits he built some more garden beds. And then some more.

And in my genuine ‘too-far-not-far-enough’ tendencies I bought all the seeds. And then some more.

And I drew diagrams, and mapped out sun exposure, and read packets, and wrote notes on what and when and how much.

Here is how it has turned out….

We are growing herbs, tomatoes, squash…….

gardening herbs tomatoes raised garden beds




tomatoes and squash.


So maybe if you are growing a garden, you’d like some quick and dirty tips on how NOT to garden.

You’ve come to the right place my friend!……

Let’s start with tomatoes. We may have a buttload of them but we let them become feral soil kissers. So, when you have your dozen adorable little tomato plants from the nursery……

put half back, twelve is way too many…

and remember they are gonna grow overbearingly large. So space them out and give them support while they are still small enough to fit into tomato cages.

Then you can do that thing where you pinch off suckers and the ‘third shoot’, so the plant spends its energy on the tomatoes instead of sprawling to unruly size. (and maybe your Dad won’t come and be all, ‘I am pretty sure I already told you to do this’ and you’re all ‘oh? well, can you show me again, with lots of hands on examples?’)

Next rookie tip: If you are growing a butternut squash and you think it needs a squash friend, it doesn’tnew sqaush plants

Don’t let your mystery-gourd compost volunteer act all demure and lonely and you think….’sure you can come on into this giant garden with Butternut! What could go wrong?’


overgrown butternut squash plant overgrown squash plants in okanagan BC
On the second-hand, you can finally deep fry some squash blossoms and feel super artisanal and crap, until your brother shoots you down…..

text message where brother shoots down squash blossoms

I mean, if you aren’t willing to eat an immature flower that is stuffed with avocado and fried in oil, what ARE you willing to do?! (JJ Bro. You eat all my weird food.)

And if you are planting corn, plant it earlier than later

single corn plant

….unless you want that ‘single mammoth blade of grass’ look that might be all ironic and artistic and crap. But, I don’t got time for that, I really just wanted to eat corn.

Also, quinoa is super easy to grow from seed.

quinoa sprouts grown from seed quinoa plant in BC

Like too easy.

Those little tiny seeds get away on you (and toddlers) and scatter through your whole backyard. I haven’t made it to harvest time yet so I’m still feeling fond magical hope for my future as a quinoa producer. Here is some quinoa for you! And for you! And for ALL MY FRIENDS!!!!

Another word of caution to any rookie gardener.

If you are growing some new-aged exciting berry, make sure you google what it looks like in advanced. So when the actual seed doesn’t take, you don’t expend your time and energy dutifully nurturing a weed…….and one day you’re all, ‘wait, I didn’t plant goji berries in here….or here…or over there……or….dammit! It’s a weed!?!’ (picture not included because I destroyed all the weeds with the fury of a double-crossed Xena Warrior Princess)

So maybe you want to keep it simple with strawberries. But for some reason, the plants are relatively fruitless.

They are now longer called ‘strawberry plants’. Now we affectionately refer to them as, ‘the leaves we would live under if we were in Honey I Shrunk the Kids’.

strawberry plants in zone 4 under strawberry leaves

I’ve had these strawberry plants for about three years and just get a handful of berries each year. Don’t let this picture of lush foliage distract you. We all know what this whole post is all about. It’s a cry for help. If there is any sweet-souled gardeness who is looking for a frazzled mom to mentor through the introductory lessons of gardening, then look no further. *Waves*

And if you aren’t entirely blown away by my feats of mixing soil and seed, then wrap your brain around this….

My mother in law said it couldn’t be done.

But oh, I did! So prepare to be ‘impressed’…..

I killed a new rhubarb plant.


However, I had kids to blame stuff on, so I’m gonna point my not-so-green thumb at the toddlers who used this portion of dirt as their mud pie assembly line.

It’s not all bad news though.

Any gardening disappointments can be glossed over with the mere presence of one thing.


Even if my family has a conflicted relationship with them….


Sitting on my outdoor garden bench and seeing these beautiful plants and flowers that I have grown after the last few months is so rewarding.

dwarf sungflower plants dwarf sunflowers in BC

Love Shawna, Your Nerdy Girlfriend who will have a truck full of squash this fall, I got ya’ll covered for festive gourd season!


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